9.26.2015

Desert Adapted

We adapted quickly to our desert home. We don't mind the heat (blush - we have air conditioning!), and we quickly came to the realization that it's the humidity we don't like.

Photo by J. Lee Compton
Of course, this fella (gal?) is naturally desert adapted - and resides on the ranch of our friends Lynn and Lee. S/he is one of several they have seen since moving here.

Photo by J. Lee Compton
As you can see, I am not the only one who likes prickly pears to eat.

Wildflower season is one of the most beautiful times in the Sonoran Desert.
Several weeks ago, I made Prickly Pear Jelly from the juice, but when Lynn and Lee came over for a birthday dinner, I made a pitcher full of prickly pear margaritas. (Visit the post for information on how to prepare extract the juice from the fruits. The juice also freezes really well.)

Most people around these here parts use prickly pear syrup for their cocktails, but I like the refreshing "sugar free" version I am using today.

It looks tropical, doesn't it?
Sugar free is in quotation marks because there is enough natural sugar in both the limes and the cactus fruits that it can't be sugar free. Oh, and sugar in the alcohol? Let's not even go there.

This is at the end of our driveway. Palo verdes are gorgeous in April.
This is a very simple cocktail recipe, and a wonderful way to say goodbye to our long, hot summer. You will most likely need to use a purchased prickly pear syrup unless you have a desert full of the right cacti behind your home. You can adjust the amount of lime juice to suit your taste.

One of the riparian ares in Pima Canyon.
Now, heading back to the actual prickly pear. In my last post I realized, thanks to all the comments, that I neglected to tell you that there are many different kinds of prickly pears.

In December, the cottonwoods glow in Sabino Canyon.
Many of you have seen the pears for sale at your green grocer and, while edible and tasty, they are not the source of our juice.

The statuesque saguaro cactus is native only to the Sonoran Desert.
Those are cactus figs (Opuntia ficus-indica), also known as Indian Figs, native to Mexico (though grown here) and introduced to Mediterranean Europe soon after Contact. What we use for the juice are the fruits of the Opuntia engelmannii, or Englemann's Prickly Pear. Its fruits are referred to as tunas, and this variety is native to our Sonoran Desert.

Opuntia Engelmannii
Fun facts: The Sonoran Desert includes 60 mammal species, 350 bird species, 20 amphibian species, over 100 reptile species, 30 native fish species (really!), over 1000 native bee species, and more than 2,000 native plant species. I think that is why first time visitors are surprised when they don't see sand dunes or vast blank expanses of rock - ours is a very green, lush desert! I hope you have enjoyed this little tour of our beautiful region.

Note: When harvesting fruits or other foods in the wild, please make sure you connect with local experts to make sure you aren't making any unfortunate mistakes!

Bottoms up!

~ David


Prickly Pear Margaritas

1/2 cup tequila blanco (also called silver)
1/2 cup triple sec (you can also use Cointreau)
1/2 cup lime juice (preferable from Mexican limes, a.k.a. Key limes; they are the same thing!)
1/2 cup prickly pear juice, thawed if frozen

Shake all four ingredients together in a cocktail shaker with a few ice cubes. Pour into glasses (salted rims are traditional but optional) and add a few ice cubes.

Serves 4.

Photo by J. Lee Compton

32 comments:

  1. Absolutely stunning shots, David! I've never seen prickly pear juice in the store and although I'm not a cactus pear fan, I'd definitely be willing to try it in a drink! Lovely!

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    1. Christina - the cactus figs that you have eaten are very different from the juice of the Engelmannii. I hope you get to try it sometime!

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  2. Oh David, those wildflowers.... just stunning!

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  3. Ok, now I want to time our visit to Arizona for wildflower season. It's stunning!

    Would seriously love to of foraging in the desert - but I think you already know I would. And this cocktail sounds so refreshing. A little lethal, but refreshing.

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    1. John - the difficulty in timing your trip is that wildflowers don't happen every year. The good years are ones with decent November and December rains. We are hoping this is a good spring coming - and the flowers can be in March (mostly) and early April. I will keep you posted!

      Now, what could be lethal about this cocktail? It is only 50 percent alcohol, whereas the one I am having while typing this (a Sidecar) is 84% alcohol.

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  4. David, yet another great post with FANTASTIC photography. Reading your blog on Sunday mornings is such a lovely treat.

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    1. Thank you so much Connie! Although I have to say I think I get more enjoyment out of your brownie recipes! :) Have a great day.

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  5. I'm not a drinker as you know, but this is one gorgeous cocktail! Love the colour and I love the photos of your region. Look at those beautiful yellow flowers and just the gorgeous scenery.
    I'm wondering, what's the prickly pear juice taste like? Is it pear like or more berry like? I'll have to buy one to try it!

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    1. Nazneen - I would say it is definitely more berry like, but not like any berry I know. It also makes great hot pink lemonade, which you COULD have! :)

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  6. Love those tortoise photos. His/her face looks so wise and tolerant.

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    1. Thanks, Caterina - Lee did an amazing job with the tortoise photos. I got to see one, but didn't have my camera that day. Quite amazing that these tortoises just wander the desert freely!

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  7. Hi David, that tortoise is so amazing, love to watch them chew. You definitely captured the beauty of the desert, thought I was looking at AZ Highway pics as they are so nice.

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    1. That is the highest compliment anyone could give to me, Cheri I have been a reader of Arizona Highways since I was about 10, and love it for its photography. A fun fact - the two beautiful poppy and lupine shots were taken on a day when I was photographing side-by-side with famed Arizona Highways photographer Jack Dykinga. That was pretty cool.

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  8. So many things to say . . . 1) LOVE the cocktail! It's so pretty, and I'm sure equally as delicious. 2) How cute is the red on that sweet tortoise face!? #) The flowers are gorgeous -- and minus the Sajuaro in the background, it could be the Santa Monica Mountains (in a year with rain, of course). This is great, David!

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    1. Thanks, Valentina! Yes, I often think that the Santa Monica Mountains look a lot like our Santa Catalinas. And, yes, rain is the key for these beauties - and, alas, we don't get this kind of show every year!

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  9. Great photos! I especially like the turtle and flower pictures. I am a big margarita lover--but I don't know if we can get prickly pear juice in Wisconsin (even frozen)!

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    1. Inger - I think you would have to order it online, and then probably only a prickly pear syrup would be available. Glad you enjoyed the photos!

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  10. Thank you for teaching me about the difference between the different kind of fruits!

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    1. Until you and a few others mentioned it in their comments, Fiona, I never thought about the other kind of prickly pear. Although I did wonder if that is what Baloo meant in Jungle Book when he said, "You don't need to use the claw when you pick a pear of the big pawpaw..."

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  11. Dear David - your cocktail has the most delightful color - just amazing! And your prickly pear theme is just wonderful! And all those photos of the scenery around you are naturally beautiful! Would you believe I never drank a Margarita in my life?! If I were visting your place and you placed a beautiful glass like the one in your pictures in front of me, I am sure I would be delighted with the taste!
    Liebe Grüße nach Tucson!
    Andrea & Co.

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    1. Andrea - I can't imagine margaritas are very popular in Germany, but they are here! Maybe someday you will be here, and I can serve you your first!

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  12. David - Beyond gorgeous! Love your photos and you already know that I love prickly pear margaritas. Did your tortoise pal ask you to pass the tequila? And I never knew that Mexican limes and Key limes were the same thing.

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    1. Thanks, Nicole - I remember well your post, and our mutual love of this beverage. It is nice that Mexican limes grow so well here - makes for good margarita parties!

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  13. Thank you for posting these beautiful pix and your observations of the desert. I spend a lot of time in Palm Springs and it's so hard to convince people there's more to the desert than rusted out hulls of old trucks and rabid coyotes! Also, I have just returned from Florida and can confirm your statement about humidity (no than you!). However, this cocktail proves it's possible to survive the heat AND humidity (one way or another – hick). GREG

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    1. Yes - I saw you were in Florida and all I could think was, "Poor thing..." While there is a lot to be said for the state, humidity is not one of them. Glad you are back in LA and sipping your way back to sanity!

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  14. I will add my voice to the chorus of those who wrote before me--the photography is beautiful from the gorgeous color of the drink to those fabulous close ups of the tortoise(s), the facts were indeed fun (who knew about all the bees?), and the recipe itself! Thanks for such an uplifting post!

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    1. Thanks, Susan - Lee really did a great job with the photos of the tortoise. And I realized I should have included a wonderful sunset photo... oh, well... for another post!

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  15. Ha ha! That last photo is hilarious - looks like Mr/s Turtle may be suffering a prickly pear induced sugar rush! Beautiful landscape - would love to see it with my own eyes. One day!

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    1. I hope you can visit someday - let me know if you do!

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  16. I've never seen a prickly pear that I know of, but heard about tunas, though not here. But a new cocktail is always welcomed in my house, jaja!

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    1. Same here, Paula - new cocktails are always welcome!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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